Stuff I Wrote Elsewhere: Measuring the Weather

Eleven years ago next week, I stuck up a rain gauge in the backyard and starting dutifully writing down daily data on NOAA WS FORM B-91, “Record of River and Climatological Observations.”

Today, my employer kindly indulged my little hobby, affording me space on the front page of the newspaper for a riff on the problem of determining how much it rained in a geographically diverse place like Albuquerque (sub/ad req):

I’m a weather nerd, and my trip to the city’s official rain gauge was something of a pilgrimage. I’ve been keeping rainfall data at my house for more than a decade, and I’m always comparing it to the official airport total. But I had never actually visited the official weather station.

So on a bright summer morning a couple of weeks back, Journal photographer Marla Brose and I joined Camacho and a group of his colleagues, piling into a pair of National Weather Service trucks. Through a guarded gate, with Camacho in regular contact with the airport tower to make sure we didn’t get run over by a jetliner, we drove down the taxiways and onto the dirt next to a line of instruments that collect Albuquerque’s weather data 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

There are thermometers, a device that looks up to measure cloud cover and an ultrasonic wind sensor. But it was the rain gauge that interested me, the AWPAG — All Weather Precipitation Accumulation Gauge.

It looks like a big shiny bucket, with a funnel on the top and a very precise scale inside to measure the water that falls. Fiber optics connect it to a nearby rack of communication gear and, via a network of weather websites, to the world.

If you look up “the weather in Albuquerque,” this is most often what you get.

As if the weather gods somehow knew I was working on the column, we had a lovely rainstorm last night in Albuquerque. I got 0.14 inch at my house. They got 0.13 at the airport. For once, we almost match. (updated with embarrassing typo on rainfall amount fixed)


  1. At my house in Rio Rancho we got 1.89 inches of rain (!) and flooded streets, backyards and trash cans floating down the street.

    Our house is probably 20-25 miles as the crow flies from your house.

  2. 1.4 is almost a match to .13? I know that New Mexico’s school system isn’t the best, but dude, that’s an order of magnitude apart!


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